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You are reading: Equity Groups and Predictors of Academic Success in Higher Education

Written by Dr Jill Scevak, Dr Erica Southgate, Dr Mark Rubin, Ms Suzanne Macqueen, Dr Heather Douglas and Mr Paul Williams, The University of Newcastle Australia

Executive Summary
Research studies in the United States of America identified differences between First in Family (FiF) and non-FiF students. There is contradictory evidence regarding differences in college achievement between FiF and non-FiF students in the USA. Some studies found no differences (Inman and Mayes, 1999; Strage, 1999) and other studies indicated lower GPAs for first-generation students (Martinez, Sher, Krull and Wood, 2009; Pascarella et al., 2004).

Australian research on FiF university students is limited in number and in the scope of variables that may impact on achievement and university experience. The limited research on FIF students in the Australian context has covered aspects related to decision-making and enrolment patterns as well as attributions and indicators of success (Luzeckyj et al., 2011). These students were more likely to be enrolled in certain degrees (Education, Economics and Science as opposed to Law, Medicine and Engineering), be older, and come from a rural background.

The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of FiF status, socio-economic and demographic contributors to the academic outcomes of students enrolled in a large regional Australian university.

Key Findings

  • FiF students were more likely to be female (69%) than non-FiF students (50%).
  • FiF students were more likely to be older than non-FiF students. FiF students (M = 22.43 years) were slightly older than non-FiF (M = 21.50).
  • FiF and non-FiF students did not differ in entry pathways to university study.
  • There were no significant differences between FiF and non-FiF students in full time or part time enrolment. Similarly, there were no differences between FiF and non-FiF enrolment in degree type (Business/Commerce, Engineering/Construction Management, Sciences, Allied Health), year level of study (Year 1-4) or hours attended.
  • Before enrolling in university studies, FiF students knew significantly fewer university students (0-4) than non-FiF students.
  • FiF students differed significantly from non-FiF in their response to the question, “How likely it would be for you to ask a lecturer or tutor for academic help?” FiF students were extremely unlikely to do so.
  • FiF and non-FiF did not differ in their responses to asking a student for academic help.
  • FiF students were significantly less confident than non-FiF students in using Blackboard.
  • FiF students worried significantly more about living and educational expenses than non-FiF students.
  • FiF students did not differ from non-FiF in number of hours enrolled in university study, number of hours spent in independent study, approach to learning (surface/deep), seeking student help, degree satisfaction, integration into university and First Year GPA and Second Year GPA.
  • FiF students scored significantly lower than non-FiF students on coping with the academic workload, complexity of course material, intention to continue with the course, seeking resource help, academic skills confidence.

Equity Groups and Predictors of Academic Success in Higher Education (233KB)

Scevak, J., Southgate, E., Rubin, M., Macqueen, S., Douglas, H. and Williams, P. (2015.) Equity Groups and Predictors of Academic Success in Higher Education. A 2014 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Project. Report submitted to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Perth: Curtin University.
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